This Homemade Cherry Liqueur infuses quickly and makes a wonderful homespun holiday gift. Use it in cake and pastry recipes to impart cherry flavor, or stock it in your bar for cocktails.
Here’s something easy and satisfying to make. And if you start infusing right now, it will be ready just in time for holiday gifting. Homemade cherry liqueur is something I keep on hand. Not so much for drinking, although it is sweet and tasty stuff, I tell ya. I love using it to impart cherry flavor in cakes an pastries. There are so many classic bakes that call for cherry liqueur, such as cherries jubilee, clafoutis, and my favorite – Black Forest cake.
Start with two big mason jars (quart jars are ideal) and divide a large bottle of vodka (1 liter) between them. Add in two cups of cherries per jar. I like using frozen dark cherries, thawed, because they are frozen at peak ripeness and I don’t have to pit 492 cherries. Also because two 16 oz. bags does the trick.
Sweeten the pot!
Pour in some granulated sugar, lid the jars and give them a shake. The sugar here is variable, but if you’re a cake maker like I am, then I recommend using the full amount. This makes a great stand-in for Kirshwasser in my favorite Christmassy Black Forest Dome Cake.
Steep the cherries for at least a month, but longer is better. Aim for about 2 months. Store the jars in a cabinet or dark place and shake them occasionally. The sugar will completely dissolve over time. These jars are two months old. When you deem them ready, strain out the liqueur. (And save the cherries! More on that later.)
Pick up some pretty bottles if you plan to gift the liqueur. Using these 8.5oz. stopper bottles you’ll get four gifts. Seal them up and they’ll keep indefinitely!
Now. What to do with those leftover cherries? Transfer them all into one large quart jar and top off with rum. (Or bourbon. Or your favorite spirit!) Now your bar is well stocked with cocktail cherries. You could also divvy these up into jars for gifts. Just make sure the cherries are completely submerged in the spirit of your choice so they’ll keep very well preserved.
I found these (free!) printable cherry liqueur labels online, so I printed some off on a sheet of self-adhesive paper and cut them out. You can find them here. If you’re gifting, a pretty velvet ribbon makes a nice presentation.
The cherry liqueur will be deep red, and I think the green velvet ribbon dresses them for the holidays. If you’re not a cherry fan, then I have good news! You can use nearly any fruit in place of the cherries. Raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and peaches are all great choices for infusing. See the recipe notes for more tips!
Homemade Cherry Liqueur
- 32 oz. (quart) canning jars with lids (2)
- 8.5 oz. liqueur bottles (4)
- 1 large bottle vodka 1.75 liter, about 4 cups
- 4 cups frozen dark pitted cherries thawed, 32 oz. bag
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- Divide the bottle of vodka evenly between the two large canning jars (slightly more than 2 cups per jar). Add two cups of cherries to each jar. Add 1 cup of sugar to each jar. Screw the lids on tightly and give them a good shake. Keep the jars in a cupboard or other dark place for at least 1 month. During this time, shake the jars at least twice a week, or whenever you think about it. The sugar will fully dissolve. The vodka will be flavored at 1 month, but longer will result in deeper flavor and color.
- When the liqueur is steeped, strain a jar of liqueur into a large glass measure with a pour spout. Decant the liqueur into two sterilized 8.5 oz. bottles with tight fitting lids. Repeat the process with the second jar.
- Pack all of the cherries into one of the quart jars and top off with rum, bourbon, or brandy. Keep for cocktail cherries. You can also divide these into small jars for gifts (perfect for the old-fashioned cocktail fan in your life!).
- Store bottles of liqueur and cherries in a cool dry place, such as a cabinet or pantry.
- Use your favorite fruit in place of the cherries in this recipe. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and peaches are all good choices to infuse.
- Frozen fruit, thawed, is easy to use in this recipe and yields excellent results, but you can also use fresh fruit. Frozen fruit is usually sold in 16 oz. bags. Pick up two bags for this, or one 32 oz. bag.
- Infuse for at least one month for best flavor. Some people steep this only for a week, but when I tested this recipe over time it was flavorful at 1 month, and even better at 2 months.
- Adjust the sugar content to your taste. I always use the full amount because it takes the edge off the tartness of the cherries. Also because it lends itself well to sweet applications, such as flavoring cakes and pastries.
- Cherry liqueur will keep indefinitely. Store it in a cool dry place, like you would any spirit.
- Use the liqueur to make simple syrups for cakes, or brush it directly on for tart cherry flavor. Use it in most any recipe that calls for kirshwasser. Mix it into cocktails. Give it as a fine hostess gift.
Can I use sour cherries? It’s what I have on hand.
Yes! They would be wonderful in this!
Can you use actual Kirschwasser to enhance the cherry flavor? Instead of Vodka?
You could absolutely do that. Kirshwasser is about 40% alcohol, like vodka, so it would work well as a flavor extractor. I’m not sure what the end result would taste like, but I bet it would be excellent!
Does quality of vodka matter?
My usual rule is to get something you wouldn’t mind drinking in a cocktail. But it doesn’t have to be top shelf. If you’re looking for a brand, New Amsterdam Vodka is around $9 for a large bottle and is good quality. Smirnoff can be affordable if it’s on special promotion.
should the cherries go in the refrigerator? And should they be fully covered in the rum?
The cherries should be totally submerged in the rum. The alcohol preserves them so you can store them at room temperature. However, if the rum level goes below the cherries (with use or evaporation) then you can store them in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Or top the cherries off again with more rum and continue to store at room temp.
White rum or spiced rum?
Your choice! I used golden rum.
There are 7.4 cups in 1.75 liter. A 1 liter bottle would be sufficient for 4 cups. I am assuming the 4 cups is correct because 4 cups equals 1 quart so the cherries and vodka would fill 2 quart jars.
Just bottled my batch of cherry liquor, delicious. Used cherries given to me from a local tree. They were on the sour side and had to be used to cook or liquor. Glad I choose liquor, great for Christmas gifts. Nov 12/22